Sunday, November 30, 2008

If I know Pat Hill as well as I think I do...

He won't be going to Washington, despite all the recent reports out of Seattle media that he might be the Huskies top choice. And now this report from The Fresno Bee saying that Hill flew to Seattle, presumably to interview with Washington folks about the job.

Now here's the thing -- the University of Washington is located in Seattle. It rains a lot there, people never hit the streets without a mocha choco latte in their hands, they roam around the city looking for wi-fi hot spots, they listen to eclectic music and drive around in hybrids. It's a cleaner, less annoying version of San Francisco. And it's definitely not Fresno.

Pat Hill is Fresno. He spent part of his early years sleeping in his car because that's what he could afford. Hard work got him to where he is now. He hardly knows what a computer is, and doesn't like polite chats at the coffee house. He's a no-nonsense, meet me in the parking lot when it gets dark and we'll settle this type of guy. If Pat Hill coached the SuperSonics, they would have bolted for Oklahoma years ago.

Once an assistant at Fresno State, Pat Hill returned to his roots to take over as Jim Sweeney's successor in 1995. He came in talking about building the program from the ground up, with high school players. Bringing in kids who would excel academically and making that a priority. Scheduling big-time teams and eventually beating them consistently so that Fresno State too would be a big-time program. Hill did it all.

"Why not us?" Hill proclaimed to anyone and everyone in the nation who would listen. "Shutup & Hit Somebody," he shouted in 2001. "Anyone, anywhere, any time," he added.

Soon the Pac-10 teams, especially those residing as Fresno State's neighbors in California, scattered like the broken glass of a dropped mirror if Pat Hill came asking them for a game. Cal has played the 'Dogs twice ever, losing both times. USC is 1-1 against the 'Dogs, including the '05 game everyone remembers at the LA Coliseum when Fresno State almost knocked off "the best team in college history." UCLA has never been brave enough to play at Bulldog Stadium, yet has still lost its past two meetings with Fresno State. And Stanford, well they haven't played the 'Dogs since the 1920s (Fresno State didn't even join Division I-A until 1980).

Between the disappointments fans have felt as Hill and his chip-on-the-shoulder Bulldogs failed to go undefeated in 2001, 2004, 2005 and 2007, and going without a WAC title since 1999, Hill has established the second most feared football program in the state, behind USC's quasi-professional franchise.

There's something to be said for that. He's doing it with half the budget of most Pac-10 teams, yet still outrecruiting several of them. But best of all, most fitting of all, is Hill and Fresno State have identities that go hand in hand. Hill doesn't drive a hybrid, he drives a ghastly beast of a Bulldog Red Hummer. He does talk politically correct, he tells you what he thinks. He doesn't hide from the BCS chatter the way other coaches might, he welcomes it. He turned Bulldog Football into an adjective. He had former MLB slugger Larry Walker wearing a Fresno State cap to practice with the Rockies. He opened up a line of compliments for any Fresnan on vacation in any spot in the country from fellow vacationers who admire what he's done at Fresno State.

Pat Hill has our vision. If you're a Red Waver who truly believes Fresno State will one day win a national title in football, you love Pat Hill. If you don't have that confidence, you criticize him. But Hill has worked tirelessly for this program and this vision, and that's what we should do too -- yell as loud as you can every game, gift as much as you can to the university, invite others to attend games with you and gift whatever they can too. That's the difference of college sports and pro -- in college sports you really are allowed to say "we" when referring to your team. Because you're really part of the team.

And I want my team to include Pat Hill for years and years to come.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with you. I have been to 5 bulldog games. 1 win, 4 losses. They were playing UCLA with Carr, USC with Pinegar, Oregon with Brandstater, Wisconsin with Brandstater and UCLA with Brandstater. The Oregon game was a heartbreaker. 2 minutes to go, Oregon ball, every body is quiet! It is just me and my dad yelling, "Rip the ball out...get it can d it!" Just us. No one has faith in the dogs anymore. It sucks. But he needs to lighten up. Play one big boy. Maybe two, and get deeper and more talent with the recruiting. Plus, the defense needs to stay in there lanes. We might get 'em next year.


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